The Parisian woman is mysterious, sexy, often sarcastic, sometimes arrogant, a little bit risqué and able to do everything well, effortlessly. In the new book How to be Parisian Wherever You Are, Audrey Diwan, co-author and editor-at-large at Stylist magazine, shares the enigma that is the French woman. She takes us through the quirky cultural stereotypes with humour, and provides insight into the Parisian’s raison d’être offering age-old advice from fashion to motherhood. We caught up with Audrey while on her visit in Toronto for TIFF.
What is it about the Parisienne that’s so alluring?
I guess it has something to do with the idea of being effortless chic: not wearing too much makeup, hair is never really done and possessing enough self-confidence to make everyone else believe that’s the best way for a girl to be pretty. Which, of course, is not necessarily true. But who cares?
What’s one Parisienne snobbism* that you’re guilty of doing?
It normally happens when I have no money left in my bank account. At this time, I’m in need of a great but much too expensive massage to remedy the stress of having no money in my bank account. It’s a vicious circle. That’s life though.
You write that in fashion the Parisienne is a bargain hunter, looking for the perfect item she’ll wear for the rest of her life. What’s the best item you’ve ever found?
I have found two of them. A vintage Burberry trench that I wear with jeans and a t-shirt — it makes a great look. And some shoes — men’s style, flat ones, that makes me able to run errands all day comfortably in style.
What’s your favourite place in Paris to enjoy some public privacy?
I love to spend time in front of la basilic du Sacré Cœur, the highest place in Montmartre, where I can be a regular tourist in my own city and look at the town remembering how lucky I am to be there. Even when Paris gives me a hard time… like some beautiful women this city is fascinating, yet she can be such a bitch sometimes…
What five essential things must you have in your purse at all times?
All the bills I haven’t paid yet (because I always believe I’m gonna take care of it at some point). A small bottle of Chanel n°5 — it will be my perfume until I’m dead. An extra battery for my cell phone because I never know when I’m going to be back home. A book I want to read that I can lose myself in at any coffee place and not have to talk to anyone. A very red lip gloss to wear at night, just in case…
Share with us how you would spend a typical Saturday afternoon.
If I don’t have the kids around, a typical Saturday will start terribly late, waking up by lunch time. As the fridge is almost empty, I’ll have lunch at Le Marcel, a small restaurant around my house in Montmartre. I know sooner or later friends are going to come, meet and hang around, so my lunch will become a whole afternoon of doing nothing but talking about latest movies we loved (or hated), books we plan to read (someday) and the latest political news. We do this until it’s time to drink (and keep talking). Probably when more people come, we’ll go back to my apartment and keep talking. We’ll put on some music, and more talking. Oh my god… I just realized French people drink a lot and talk too much!
What’s your best piece of advice on love and relationships?
My way or the highway! My mother always told me that. You have to love with all your heart but always be ready to leave if someone abuses your feelings.
(This interview has been edited and condensed.)
On New Year’s Eve, enjoy a plate of oysters at home and go to bed before midnight. (The pre–New Year’s Eve party you hosted last night was already the “best of the year.”)
Never say “Bon Appétit!” when you sit down for a meal. (And never pass the salt directly—place it on the table first for the other person to pick up.)
Leave a party when it’s in full swing. (Even your own.)
Wear navy blue with black. (And red with pink, à la Yves Saint Laurent.)
When meeting someone for the first time, never say “What a pleasure,” but rather “What a pleasure to meet you.” (You never know what the future might hold.)
Say “The Search” (when referring to Proust’s In Search of Lost Time).
Don’t use abbreviations when texting. (And emoticons should be only for your girlfriends.)
Don’t follow trends. (Trends follow you.)
Never lose control. (But make sure you have a steamy past.)
Be friends with people of different generations. (Both young and old, but especially the old.)
Embrace your inner snob. (Because let’s face it, that’s who you are.)
From the book How To Be Parisian Wherever You Are © Anne Berest, Audrey Diwan, Caroline De Maigret and Sophie Mas. Published by Doubleday, An imprint of the Knopf Doubleday Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC.